All in all, Cicero’s essays in philosophy are meager in result. Like his statesmanship they clung too anxiously to orthodoxy and tradition. He had all the curiosity of a scientist and all the timidity of a bourgeois; even in his philosophy he remained a politician, reluctant to offend any vote. He collected the ideas of others, and balanced pros and cons so well that we come out from his sessions by the same door wherein we went. Only one thing redeems these little books- the simple beauty of their style. How pleasant Cicero’s Latin is, how easy to read, how smoothly and clearly the stream of language flows! When he narrates events he catches some of the vivacity that made his speeches chain attention; when he describes a character it is with such skill that he mourns that he has no time to be Rome’s greatest historian; when he lets himself go he flowers into the balanced clauses and crashing periods which he had learned from Isocrates, and with which he had made the Forum resound. His ideas are those of the upper classes, but his style aims to reach the people; for them he labors to be clear, toils to make his truisms thrilling, and salts abstractions with anecdote and wit.
He re-created the Latin language. He extended its vocabulary, forged from it a flexible instrument for philosophy, fitted it to be the vehicle of learning and literature in western Europe for seventeen hundred years. Posterity remembered him more as an author than as a statesman. When, despite all his reminders, men had almost forgotten the glory of his consulate, they cherished his conquests in letters and eloquence. And since the world honors form as well as substance, art as well as knowledge and power, he achieved, of all Romans, a fame second only to Caesar’s. It was an exception that he could never forgive.